A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

Don't Automate - Obliterate!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

by Gene Turner, Managing Director, LawHawk

In a recent LinkedIn post, Tim Boyne (a founder of legal tech company LawVu) made a deliberately provocative statement:

“On average, less than 5% of the tasks lawyers do every day require a law degree. In some areas of law it's less than 1%. That means ~ 95% of the $Trillion NZD legal industry is up for grabs. There’s gold in the streets. Right now that bounty still belongs to traditional law firms and they're reaching for their trusty clubs and slingshots ready to go to war for it. The problem is that the venture backed LegalTech industry is building a high tech, robotic arsenal of weaponry the likes of which the world has never seen. There have been over 700 LegalTech startups created in the last few years. Each one of them looking for a piece of that action. Interesting times, and well worth everyone in the industry spending a little time thinking about how they'll maintain relevancy moving forward.”

Tim wanted a response, and he got it, including the following: 

  • Derision from a young lawyer, because Tim was not a lawyer, and therefore shouldn’t presume to comment on the topic of law; 

  • A comment by a partner of a law firm that her firm can already do whatever the legal technology (any of it apparently) does, better, and at a lower cost; and

  • Requests to know where the 95% figure had come from, and doubts as to whether it was accurate. 

  • There were assumptions that legal tech suppliers are looking to take work away from lawyers, rather than work with them; that legal technology is primarily for the high-end legal market, given that they have the most money; and that legal technology is still something that is coming, rather than here and available today. 
In response to these points, I would say: 

  • We should never dismiss an idea just because it did not come from a lawyer.  In this case, Tim has 10 years of experience managing IT for a law firm, and knows very well how law firms work.  But would it matter if he didn’t?  As ALPMA members know very well, non-lawyers such as practice managers and IT specialists already add a lot of value and ideas to the legal profession.  In the legal tech space, many vendors are looking to bring improvements to law which have already been proven in other sectors and we should be encouraging those ideas. 

  • Legal technology and law firms should not be mutually exclusive. Most of the legal technology suppliers I know would prefer to partner with law firms and help them use the “robotic arsenal of weaponry” to provide better services at better value, but many law firms don’t want to know about them.  Why? 

  • Law firms need to continuously try to improve the way they work, as any business does.  Everything can be done better – often dramatically so. Just a small amount of curiosity would allow law firms of any size to trial many of the technologies that are now available, and to see how much they can help to save time, reduce risk, improve quality, and win more work.  

  • It doesn’t matter where the 95% figure came from, or if it is totally accurate. As Warren Buffett has said, “It is better to be approximately right than precisely wrong”, and I bet it is approximately right. Even if it was only 50% that would be substantial.  But take a minute to imagine if it is as high as 95%.  If new technology means that up to 95% of what the organisation does could be done at least as well – if not better – at lower costs, wouldn’t that be awesome?!  Any business owner should be excited by those type of opportunities for their business. 

  • Let’s not forget all the “legal” and “non-legal” (whatever that distinction means) work that law firms currently do not get, and never will if they keep working as they currently do, but could if they provided services clients wanted at a price they were prepared to pay.  Technology will enable law firms to understand and respond to their clients’ real problems and integrate into wider business processes in very profitable and enduring ways.  The potential market for lawyers’ services is far greater than what lawyers currently serve. 

  • Legal technology is absolutely not just for the large law firms, and you don’t need a lot of money to start using it today.  In fact, many of the solutions are cloud based and as available right now to small firms as large. Some legal technology such as document automation are far from new, having been available (but largely ignored by lawyers) for 20 years. 
Automation is essential for law firms.  It is already happening – with or without law firms - and those who adopt it will be able to offer profoundly different services to those who don’t.  Instead of cautiously seeking incremental improvements to the traditional ways lawyers work and focussing mainly on risks, lawyers should embrace the opportunities it provides to completely transform what lawyers can do. 

In September, I spoke at the 2017 ALPMA Summit on the topic “Don’t Automate – Obliterate” where I looked at the opportunities legal technology is opening up for lawyers, and how they can use it to reinvent the services they offer to their clients.  

Despite many lawyers’ ongoing resistance to change, I was pleased to be able to point to progressive firms like Page Seager, who recently launched Page Create, as examples of firms who are looking to use technology to create better ways to deliver legal services and greater value to clients through innovation.  I also enjoyed meeting a number of lawyers and legal technology vendors who are excited by the potential to re-engineer the way legal services are provided.  

As Tim says, “Interesting times, and well worth everyone in the industry spending a little time thinking about how they’ll maintain relevancy moving forward.”

Editor's Note:

Want to know more about legal technology opportunities for law firms? Watch Gene's presentation "Don't Automate - Obliterate!" session from the 2017 ALPMA Summit On-Demand for just $99 (incl GST) or purchase the whole package for just $395 (incl GST), thanks to the generous support of our Summit Live and On-Demand partner, BigHand.  

About our Guest Blogger

Gene Turner
Gene was a corporate & finance partner of Buddle Findlay from 2009 until retiring from partnership in 2014. In 2011 to 2013 he was ranked as a leading lawyer in both M&A and banking as a result of leading a number of substantial transactions such as the very successful $700m acquisition by Infratil and the NZ Super Fund of Shell’s New Zealand business.

Gene is now managing director of LawHawk – a ‘new law’ venture providing advanced automated legal documents via the HotDocs cloud and helping lawyers provide better quality services to their clients, faster, at lower prices that are more profitable. In March 2017, LawHawk and Wellington law firm Succeed Legal released a free online will that anyone in New Zealand can use.

Gene is on the advisory board of The College of Law Centre of Legal Innovation.

The Evolution of the Mobile Worker

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

by Angela Nguyen, Marketing Executive, GlobalX

The trend in mobile technology has grown exponentially in recent years. Today, there is hardly an employee who isn’t constantly connected to emails, texts and work applications. Employees can work from any location with an internet connection – knocking down office walls and erasing national borders.

A recent Citrix mobility survey found that 81% of organisations currently have or plan for mobility strategies and it’s without a doubt the ‘mobility’ tech trend is here to stay.  The Australian workforce is seeing a shift in the way modern business is conducted with 73% of Australians using their smartphones at work.  As the confidence in technology increases, law firms are looking to invest in mobile technologies to not only adapt to the digital age but to increase productivity and remain competitive within the legal industry.  

Here are 3 reasons why your firm should invest in a mobility strategy. 

3 reasons to invest in a mobility strategy:

1. Increase in the number of mobile workers

Today’s business environment has entered a new era with mobile technology revolutionising how companies interact with their clients. A survey conducted by OnePoll, of workers in Australia and UK, found that nearly half of today's employees use a smartphone or mobile in the workplace. In addition, laptops have also become commonplace in today's work environment, with 82% of workers using it on a daily basis. The recent explosion of smartphones, tablets and laptop use, reveal that today's employees are looking for increased mobility at work.

2. Increased efficiency and productivity 

Mobility solutions are providing new ways for lawyers, conveyancers and support staff to collaborate more efficiently. According to Forrester Research in the Global Workforce Benchmark Survey, it revealed:

  • 56% of Australian and New Zealand workers state they need a smartphone to do their job, and
  • Approximately 66% of respondents who use their own smartphone for work believe that it makes them more productive

Mobility provides a real-time touch-point between the firm and the client, enhancing the visibility of progress with matters and increasing client services and engagement. Mobile technology boosts productivity as employees have the autonomy to perform tasks anytime, anywhere – not confined by physical office spaces. 

3. Foster business growth in the digital age 


Digital technology such as mobility, is transforming the way companies create revenue and results. Indeed, 71% of executives rate mobility as one of the top five priorities revealed in Accenture’s Mobility Insights Report 2014. In addition, it was found that 30% of Australian companies plan to spend at least US$30 million on mobile capabilities in the next two years - more than any other mature market except the United States. Respondents from the survey view their investment in digital technologies as a strategic investment geared to helping their company grow.

To thrive and survive in a world where technology is constantly evolving, law firms need to adapt and embrace new technologies. Recently,  we held ‘Innovation Exchange Workshops’ to measure readiness among our customer base for an enterprise mobility solution for their firm. From discussions at these workshops, it was evident that, despite concerns about how to effectively adopt mobile solutions, practitioners of all ages want to successfully engage with technology to increase work efficiencies. 

Having a mobility solution provides numerous benefits. The capabilities of a mobile workspace increases visibility and engagement with clients, enables employees to manage matters effectively, and allows them to overcome barriers of time and location.

At a time where the legal landscape is changing, it’s important to empower your clients with a mobile solution to have secure access to their content wherever they are, on any device. Work will no longer be defined by the 9-5 office routine, but rather by connectivity to the business network.

About our Guest Blogger

Angela Nguyen joined GlobalX in 2013 and is the Marketing and Communications Executive responsible for the digital facets within the company. Angela manages GlobalX’s social media channels and email communications – keeping customers up-to-date with the latest product enhancements and technology news within the legal industry.

 Angela has a wealth of knowledge across GlobalX’s products and services having worked across a number of roles within the company from Helpdesk Support to Sales and Marketing. She is passionate about developing engaging content and making connections with customers.

GlobalX has launched a new enterprise mobility solution – Open Practice Mobile. This new mobility solution offers substantial productivity benefits to firms via mobile access to contacts, interactive matter data, document management and time-recording functions to support their productivity whilst out on the road.

GlobalX is an ALPMA FY18 Corporate Partner and a 2017 ALPMA Summit Workshop partner.





Rise of the Machines: Driving Automation in Your Practice

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

by Matt Palmer, Marketing Manager, Actionstep

Lawyers could be replaced by artificial intelligence

This headline from February surely sent a few recent graduates into a panic.

Yes, the legal industry is in the line-of-sight of major technical disruption. It seems that soon, intelligent machines may replace our colleagues; keeping us company during those long nights at the office, reviewing our contracts, undertaking painful research, and hopefully continuing to make the coffee.

Despite the ‘doom-and-gloom’ headlines, AI is a huge opportunity for law firms, and builds on the shoulders of what automation has been doing for years - taking mundane repetitive tasks, handing them over to a machine, and allowing us to focus on what we do best. The result? Higher productivity, and an improved bottom-line.

Advanced AI is still an emerging technology, and not likely to reach the average law firm for a few years yet. But if you’re looking for some easy ways to save time (and money) today, here are a few smart tools you can use to make your firm more efficient:

Automate your client intake


Dealing with your busy day-to-day workload, as well as engaging with new prospective clients, and delivering a great first impression can definitely keep you on your feet.

Luckily, there are some smart tools that can help you automate the process, while still giving clients’ a personalised experience.

For starters, a customized form on your website can gather all of the information from a client you need to get started - such as the their personal details and general requirements.

This form may contain sensitive information, so ensure you're using an encrypted connection, and that the information is delivered to your firm in a secure manner (such as straight into your legal practice management system, which also eliminates manual data re-entry).

An automated, yet personalised e-mail, can then be sent to the client once the form is submitted. You could even include a link for the client to schedule an initial conversation in your calendar (with tools like Setmore or Timely).

Automating this part of your client intake is a win-win situation - freeing up your time, and delivering top-notch service to your clients.

Document and Email Automation

Law is definitely one industry known for it’s large amount of paperwork. So how can you spend less time creating documents, while still ensuring 100% accuracy of even the smallest details? That’s where document automation comes in.

Document automation technology allows you generate ready-to-send documents or emails in seconds. It does this by drawing on data already entered in to your legal practice management system.

Simple document automation can just insert the names of the parties involved, dates, and other details in the correct areas of a document template.

More advanced document automation can use conditional logic to add or remove sections based on the case details, and insert gender-specific pronouns.

If you wanted to go a step further, tools like Bundledocs can create professional PDF binders or document bundles in minutes.

Document automation helps your firm save time and money, stay competitive, and reduce the likelihood of errors.

Client Portal


For all of it’s benefits, email isn’t the most secure way to communicate and share files with clients. When you send an email, it can hop around the world from server to server, with each company having its own security and storage policies.

A ‘client portal’ allows your clients to log into to a secure area of your legal practice management system. They can then upload, download, or edit files, chat with you, and see the status of their case.

Automatic notifications can be sent to both you and client when required. This is great for both your clients’ and your firm, as it drastically reduces the inbound call volume of clients asking for a status update, and enables easy collaboration.

Workflow

Workflow technology allows you to build your processes into your legal practice management
system. Rather than just having a digital case file, workflow lets you easily see the progress on
a matter, automatically create and assign tasks at each step, and ensure nothing gets missed
before moving to the next stage of the case.

Workflow can greatly increase your productivity and compliance. Everyone knows what needs
to be done next, can see what might be holding things up, and automation can keep parties
informed along the way.

While you may be using some, or all of these tools in your firm, new technology continues to
disrupt the legal industry, but can help you increase profitability, sustainability, and efficiency.
So keep an eye on the future, and if you ever find yourself repeating the same process, ask -
How can I automate this?”. The machines are here to help*.

Happy automating!

*Accurate at time of writing this article. In the event of a hostile AI take-over, this sentence will be revised.

About our Guest Blogger


Matt Palmer is the Marketing Manager for Actionstep , a powerful all-in-one cloud-based legal
practice management system customised for Australian law practices. Actionstep focuses on
powerful workflow tools and automation to help lawyers achieve greater efficiency in their
practice.

With a background in business, marketing, and web development, Matt has worked with B2B
companies for over 5 years, helping them build effective digital marketing strategies. He also
consults with a number of small businesses looking to move into their next stage of growth. Matt
has a passion for connecting with customers, helping them solve problems, and developing
great user experiences.

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